May 28, 2021

Child care grant program looks to help those with odd hours

BURLINGTON — After talking with the Vermont National Guard and other places where workers take odd hours, a grant program aimed at expanding young child care options is opening itself up a bit more.

Since 2018, Let’s Grow Kids has awarded funds through its Expanding Infant and Toddler Child Care Capacity grant program. Sherry Carlson, chief programs officer for Let’s Grow Kids, said it began by awarding $400,000 to increase infant and toddler child care spaces, then in 2019 partnered with the Vermont Child Development Division to award $800,000.

The funds could be used to expand existing programs or create new ones, she said. New to this round is the ability to expand hours to weekends and evenings.

Carlson said she’s been in the child care industry since 1987 and there’s always been gaps for people working in certain sectors, such as tourism and travel, law enforcement, and the military. Efforts have been made to fill those gaps, but the needs remain.

Two big things caused Let’s Grow Kids and the Vermont Child Development Division to expand the grant eligibility.

“No. 1 was outreach from the Vermont National Guard and the several hundred vacancies they have, and they identified the need for expanded child care on weekends and evenings as one of the barriers to recruitment,” Carlson said. “And the other thing would be the pandemic.”

Essential workers often need child care services outside the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, she said. It’s a problem not only for those workers, but for employers looking to hire.

“We’re hearing about a lot of employers who can’t hire, and a lot of those positions are in the sectors that need this expanded care, so we’ve been talking to the Child Development Division about this and they’re very interested and very supportive in finding a model that can work in Vermont to fill those gaps,” said Carlson.

Applications for the grant program are due July 9, however those interested in applying are asked to be at a Zoom conference June 10. Let’s Grow Kids has more information at about how to register for the call.

Let’s Grow Kids plans to offer this grant program through 2025, said Carlson.

“Pre-pandemic, we estimated that three out of every five infants and toddlers who wished to access care didn’t have the child care they needed, and in terms of our grant program, our goal in 2018 was to add at least 500 new spaces every year through 2025,” she said. “We are a sunset organization, so we end in 2025, and we really thought being able to add those spaces would not be the end of the capacity need, but it would give us a really good jump start in increasing access and being ready for the investments that we needed to expand child care for all families that wish to access it.”

A family child care home can be awarded up to $20,000 through the program, while a center-based operation can be granted up to $50,000, she said.

“Investing in and working alongside local communities to increase the capacity and quality of child care programs in Vermont is such a crucial part of our work at Let’s Grow Kids,” stated Aly Richards, chief executive officer of Let’s Grow Kids, in a release. “The pandemic exacerbated the child care crisis families and early childhood educators have been dealing with for decades.”

Click here to read this story on the Times Argus website. 

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